In early October 1998 I was honored with a legacy of the utmost meaning to me. This was a small volume bound in vellum, a copy of the editio princeps (the ‘premier edition,’ the first time a work was ever printed) of Euripides’ tragedy Hercleidae. Aldus Manutius printed this book in Venice in 1503 from a text prepared by Marcus Musurus. The colophon of the book displays the celebrated symbol of the dolphin and anchor. This little book is not only valuable in itself, but it has a history of distinguished owners, of whom the last before me was my beloved advisor John Herington, a man of the deepest and most accurate classical learning, a man who loved literature and found great pleasure in it. John was a true friend of the Muses. He died March 29, 1997.
Now I am proud, I shall not say to own this book, but rather to take care of it, to see it through its 500th birthday, and when the time comes, to pass it on to someone worthy of it, if I can find such. Late John’s wife, Sara Mack, selected this legacy for me, and gave it to me with the kindest of words. In gratitude, I have translated this essay of Erasmus concerned with Aldus and his device. This translation is dedicated to Sara Mack.
The text used was a selection from the Adagia (it first appeared in the 1525 edtion), chosen and edited with notes by Anton J. Gail and published by Philipp Reclam jun. GmbH & Co., Stuttgart, 1983. Erasmus makes a few mistakes not permitted to a twentieth century classicist, but so what? I haven’t corrected him much. The Aldine device was scanned from a high quality xerox of the book willed to me. Exceptional care was taken in the xeroxing, and books that age are so tough anyway they could survive much rougher treatment. No harm was done.